Zapata, 40, had hoped to cross the English Channel in just 20 minutes, commuting between northern France and southern England via the rather ostentatious jet-powered flyboard while maintaining an average speed of 140kph (87mph), travelling between 15 and 20 meters (50-65ft) above the water.
However, he lost control and plunged into the water while attempting to land on a boat to refuel in order to complete his ambitious journey.
“It is a huge disappointment,” a member of his team told France’s BFM TV shortly after the flight. “He must have missed the platform by just a few centimeters.”
“We practiced this manoeuvre dozens of times in heavier seas.”
The plucky inventor took off from the beach at Sangette, Calais at 9am local time hoping to land a short time later in St. Margaret’s Bay in Dover. Zapata had expressed concerns that the wind could disrupt his audacious attempt to be the first person in history to make the 33-kilometer (22 mile) crossing on a flyboard.
The rescue boats recovered him from the water in short order and he suffered no injuries in the dive. “Physically, he is fine. On the other hand though, he is extremely annoyed.”
Zapata grabbed headlines around the world recently after his viral appearance in a military parade during the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris earlier this month.
He received a €1.3 million grant from the French Army in late 2018 to develop his prototype flyboard, which is powered by five small jet engines and runs on a 42-liter tank of kerosene.